I agree with you Simon, Kona have churned out masses of more affordable frames, folk who enjoy the ride geometry and would like something more "exclusive" therefore have to shell out a load of cash to purchase the "high end" Kona frame that they want.
What I don't agree on is the view that Merlin or Litespeed make anything more "special", perhaps I can be convinced otherwise but nothing I've read so far has convinced me. Merlin and Litespeed do
make very good frames (I own a Rob V Merlin Mountain) but are they any more exclusive and better made than the ti Kona's? I don't think so. You may cite the butting of the XLM and yes it does save some weight but it doesn't improve the ride characteristics and when you weigh as much as we do, up to half a pound of weight saved is neither here or there.
Here's some Kona blurb:
King Kahuna is made by Titanium Sports in Kennewick, Washington. All of the tubing continues to be made strictly of Sandvik aerospace certified titanium alloy tubing. The frame is used by the Kona Factory team and is the best cross-country hardtail race frame that we make. It is available as a frame set or complete bike, with the Kona Factory Kit component group (King Kahuna specifications in the Kona catalog).
Sandvik custom drawn and directional shape seamless 3-2.5 titanium frame with reinforcing gussets.
Sandvik custom drawn and tapered seamless 3-2.5 titanium chain stays and seat stays.
6-4 titanium plate dropouts made with "Bullet" plugs for superior strength & perfect rear wheel alignment.
The Merlin's aren't built any better.... they're just different. Were they really worth the extra loot?? Debatable I'd say.
Genealogy.. well, the manufacturers mentioned have been building bikes for so long now that they all have excellent pedigree and heritage.